Skip to main content

Full text of "In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. Born July 19, 1838-Died August 29, 1921"

See other formats

Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 

The Auk, Vol. XXXIX. 

Plate I. 




Vol. xxxix. January, 1922. No. 1 

Born July 19, 1838— Died August 29, 1921. 

by frank m. chapman. 
Plate 1. 

Dr. Joel Asaph Allen, a Founder of the American Ornitholog- 
ists ' Union, died after a short illness at Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, 
New York, on August 29, 1921, in the eighty-fourth year of his life. 

Five years before his death at the urgent solicitation of the 
President of the American Museum of Natural History, Dr. Allen 
consented to prepare a brief autobiography as an introduction 
to a bibliography of his scientific publications. This was published 
in November, 1916. 1 Only one familiar with Dr. Allen's retiring 
nature can realize the extreme reluctance with which he complied 
with President Osborn's request; but having set his hand to the 
task, he determined not to spare himself and with the thorough- 
ness which marked all his work he prepared a history of his life 
and critical analysis of his dominant characteristic traits. 

The value of this obviously authoritative document is so great 

1 Read before the thirty-ninth Meeting of the A. O. U. at Philadelphia, Novem- 
ber 9, 1921. 

2 Autobiographical Notes and a Bibliography of the Scientific Publications 
of Joel Asaph Allen. 8vo. pp. xi + 215. 


2 Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. [jan 

that it is clearly not only the privilege but the duty of the biog- 
rapher to use Dr. Allen's own words in recording the more intimate, 
personal side of the history of his life. Of especial interest is the 
account of his boyhood and the light it throws on the first mani- 
festations of his inborn love of nature. 

"I was born," Dr. Allen writes, "in Springfield, Massachusetts, 
July 19, 1838, the eldest son of Joel and Harriet (Trumbull) Allen, 
both of early New England stock. My father was a descendant 
in the seventh generation, of Samuel Allen who settled in Windsor, 
Connecticut, in 1640 ... On the maternal side the descent 
is from John Trumbull, great-grandfather of Governor Jonathan 
Trumbull (said to have been the original of 'Brother Jonathan' 
and familiar friend of Washington) who was born in Newcastle- 
on-Tyne, and settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1639. 

"My immediate progenitors were farmers. My father, how- 
ever, learned the carpenter's trade and was a house-builder in his 
earlier days, but later bought a farm on which he spent the greater 
part of his life . . . My father had little appreciation for 
my natural history tastes, but was kind and generous, offering 
to share his farm with me if I would remain with him on the old 
homestead. My mother, on the other hand, was much in sympathy 
with my yearnings, and often used her influence in my favor." 

Dr. Allen had a sister and three brothers. One of the latter 
died in infancy, a second became a moulder and the third a farmer. 
He therefore was the only member of his family to exhibit those 
traits which marked him as the born naturalist, and the possession 
of which are evidently not to be accounted for by direct inheritance, 
environment or association with others. 

"My early training," Dr. Allen continues, "was rigidly puri- 
tanical. My parents were both members of the Congregational 
church, and strict in their religious observances. Family prayers 
invariably followed breakfast, and also closed the routine of 
Sunday, all the religious requirements of the day being strictly 

"My earliest recollections are naturally associated with the 
surroundings of my birthplace on the old farm, situated on a hill 
about a mile and a half east of the then thickly settled part of 
Springfield, known as the Watershops, where the United States 

Vo1 ' ^^ XIX ] Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. 3 

Government has for more than a century carried on the manufact- 
ure of firearms. The family home was a large two-story square- 
roofed house, at the time innocent of paint and unshaded by trees. 
One of the pleasantest memories of my younger days is of helping 
my father plant the row of maples and elms which long since 
became the prominent feature of the road frontage of the farm, 
and in recovering and painting the house. We were not crowded 
by neighbors, the nearest residence on the west being half a mile 
away, and there was only one house within half a mile to the 
eastward. Subsequently others much nearer were built in both 
directions, the lonely country road has become Allen Street, and 
a trolley car has been projected to connect the rapidly extending 
suburbs with the business portion of the city. 

"Dandelions and daisies and other wild flowers were early 
attractions, the profuse gathering of which at an early age led my 
elders, and particularly my mother, to predict that when the 
toddling youngster grew up he would favor the profession of 
medicine, and I was often facetiously dubbed 'Dr. Sykes', in 
allusion to our then family physician, an herb-doctor of local 
reputation. In due time I was assigned a share in the household 
chores, and trained to preform the allotted tasks with promptness 
and care. 

"The nearest schoolhouse was a mile distant, of the conven- 
tional red type, situated as usual on the crest of a hill. In summer 
the school was taug;ht by a schoolmistress, while the winter session 
was conducted by a schoolmaster selected for his ability to keep 
the larger boys in order as well as to teach the 'three Rs.' Some 
years later a schoolmistress was employed for both winter and 
summer sessions. In those days the services of boys of even six 
and seven years were considered too valuable for farm-work to 
be sacrificed in summer for school purposes, so that to them only 
the winter session of the school year was available. 

" Despite hard work and long hours, the farm proved attractive 
and satisfying for a time, but at about the age of fourteen the love 
inspired by this free contact with natural surroundings developed 
a desire to know more of the animal and plant life, the soil and 
the rocks, and the ever changing phenomena of sky and air, than 
could be gained merely by association. 

4 Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. [j^, 

" At the age of thirteen, after much pleading on my part, to my 
great delight, my father presented me with a gun. At first it 
merely afforded the pleasure all boys experience in being able to 
shoot something, either as game or on the pretext that certain 
birds and animals are destructive to crops, and that it is desirable 
to reduce their numbers. But very soon the destructive instinct 
gave place to a desire to possess specimens for study, particularly 
of birds, which I found were so numerous in kinds that compara- 
tively few of them were known by name to any of the people, 
either of town or country, whom I met. Warblers, vireos, kinglets, 
sparrows and many other kinds of birds were shot, measured, 
weighed, described and given provisional names in my notebooks, 
so that I might again recognize them when met with, long before 
I knew that books had been written about them and that they all 
had names, Latin as well as English. I even made attempts to 
draw and color them, but entire lack of instruction in the work 
led only to failure and disappointment. A little later, however, 
I made the acquaintance of Bradford Horsford, a teacher of draw- 
ing, who was also an amateur ornithologist and taxidermist, with 
a good knowledge of all the commoner birds. From him I bor- 
rowed a copy of the Brewer edition of Wilson's 'American Ornitho- 
logy/ which, to my unspeakable delight, he later sold to me; 
NuttalPs and Audubon's works on North American birds were also 
found in the public library of Springfield, and a new world was 
opened to me. 

" A little later I made the acquaintance of a man of broader 
education than I had ever before met, who taught our district 
school for several winter terms, and became a resident of the 
neighborhood. As he was a nature-lover himself he could appre- 
ciate my aspirations, and most generously presented me with a 
copy of Blythe's 'Cuvier's Animal Kingdom,' a work of which 
I previously had never heard. Thus equipped, and with the 
resources of a public library now at my command, acquaintance 
with not only the local birds, mammals, reptiles and fishes, but 
with many of the insects, became a delightful experience. Interest 
in farm work as an occupation as rapidly declined, but a filial 
desire to share fully in the family burdens led to no neglect of 
duties but often to excessive effort in manual labor to demonstrate 
an interest otherwise unfelt." 

Vo1 ' i?22 XIX ] Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. 5 

During the winters of 1858-62, Dr. Allen attended Wilbraham 
Academy, working on his father's farm in the summer and devoting 
all his spare time to the study of such works on natural history 
as were available. "During this period/ ' he states, "my ever 
present ambition was to write a history of the 'Birds of New 
England' that should be as complete and exhaustive as possible, 
and based on original observation, including the necessary explora- 
tions in northern New England where so many of the migratory 
species were supposed to pass the breeding season. Next to this 
I looked upon editorial work as an enviable goal. Yet at the time 
these aspirations began to develop composition was a slow and 
difficult task, and to acquire facility in writing I forced myself 
to keep a daily journal, in which I recorded not only the current 
weather conditions in detail but every incident of my daily experi- 
ences that seemed to offer a subject for comment . . . 
During the years 1859-1861, I collected and mounted (as attested 
by my catalogue, still extant) some 300 birds, representing nearly 
100 species, and also such native mammals as I could find near my 
home, and I preserved in jars of alcohol specimens of all the rep- 
tiles, amphibians and fishes; such mollusks as were available 
were also gathered and several hundred insects. Best of all, I 
knew the technical names of nearly all except the insects, of which, 
however, I knew many. The local minerals and rocks found 
place on the shelves of my little museum, for which a small room 
was kindly provided by my parents, and which I equipped with 
shelves and a flat table case for insects. In addition there were 
rows of bottles containing the products of my boyish experiments 
with such cheap chemicals as I could afford to purchase at the 
neighboring drug store, each duly labeled with its proper chemical 
formula. The whole was amateurish in the extreme, and repre- 
sented merely a superficial acquaintance with a wide range of 
subjects, but enough to add immensely to the pleasure of living, 
giving, as it did, the sense of being in touch with plant and animal 
life and the geological features of my immediate environment. 
My notebooks contained pages of descriptions of unusual atmos- 
pheric phenomena, from the prismatic tints of fleecy clouds 
floating past the midday sun, haloes, unusual storm conditions, 
auroral displays, and the August and November shooting-star 

6 Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. [jot 

periods, to the varied forms of the snow crystals of a winter storm 
— things for the most part unobserved by my friends and neighbors, 
and which hence gave them no added joy to living. 

"It is needless to say that my interest in every day practical 
affairs was limited to a conscientious and cheerful discharge of 
the obligations natural to my position as a helper to my father in 
the routine of farm work. Every spare moment of the day, when 
in the house, was spent in my room poring over books or specimens 
or jotting down things seen out of doors in the corn or hay field. 
These constant disappearances when off duty were naturally 
an annoyance to my father, who could not appreciate my absorp- 
tion in such unpractical affairs. To the oft-made inquiry of my 
father, 'Where's Asaph?' was mother's gentle response, 'upstairs/ 
and the contemptuous paternal rejoinder: 'Upstairs; he's always 
upstairs.' Although unappreciative of his son's 'foolish notions,' 
he was not harsh or unkind, as an agreement, lasting for several 
seasons, granting one day a week for the prosecution of my hobbies 
is ample evidence. For these foibles my mother had always a 
degree of sympathy, which increased as years passed, to active 
influence in their behalf. 

"To demonstrate my hearty interest in forwarding the farm 
work, I often, as I afterwards found, exerted myself beyond my 
proper physical endurance, which with the absorption in natural 
history work told heavily on my health. It was often necessary 
in the busy season for my father to employ day laborers and it 
was always my ambition to 'lead the field,' which I was always 
able to do except in the heavier work, even when a young boy just 
entering the teens. My evening task, before retiring, was to 
write in my journal the notes of the day and to change the dryers 
in my extemporized botanical press, consisting of several pieces 
of thick board, cut the proper length, a lot of old newspapers, and 
a heavy, smoothly waterworn stone for the top of the pile to afford 
the requisite pressure. Many, many a time this bedtime task 
found me almost too exhausted by the day's labor to accomplish. 
These long periods of overwork undoubtedly laid the foundation 
for much of the semi-invalidism of many later years. " 

In 1861 Dr. Allen reluctantly sold his beloved collections to 
Wilbraham Academy in order that he might raise funds to con- 

V ° L i^22 XIX ] Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. 7 

tinue his studies at that institution, where he formed the friendship 
of William Harmon Niles, a student who was planning to enter 
the Lawrence Scientific School to study under Louis Agassiz. 
Niles induced Allen to join him and, with the balance of the sum 
received for his collections, he went to Cambridge in 1862. Thus 
was begun an association which, with some breaks due to ill-health 
or absence on expeditions was to last until 1885 when Dr. Allen 
left the Museum of Comparative Zoology to enter the American 
Museum of Natural History. 

Dr. Allen continued his studies under Agassiz for the greater 
part of the succeeding three years and, on March 26, 1865, sailed 
with his great teacher as a member of an expedition to Brazil. 
They arrived at Rio Janeiro April 22, and after collecting in the 
vicinity of that city for some weeks, Dr. Allen was detailed to join 
a smaller party which left June 9 for the northern provinces of 
'Brazil. After a difficult journey of somewhat over six months he 
reached Bahia. Although so far from well during this period 
that he was obliged to abandon the plan to reach the coast at 
Ceara, Dr. Allen's 'collections included several cases of birds, 
mammals, mollusks, and zoological specimens besides six or eight 
barrels of fishes, reptiles and other vertebrates in alcohol; and his 
notebooks contained many pages of detailed observations on the 
country through which he had passed, its flora and fauna. 

On December 15, Dr. Allen sailed from Bahia on a 300 ton 
brigantine and after a trying voyage, during which they were 
blown from Cape Hatteras back to St. Thomas, they dropped 
anchor off Woods Hole, Massachusetts, 90 days out from Bahia 7 

Chronic indigestion now forced Dr. Allen to abandon museum 
work and return to the farm; but he had experienced the joy of 
exploration and as soon as his health permitted he took the field 
again, collecting in June, 1867, on Sodus Bay, Lake Ontario, and 
during the summer, in Illinois, Indiana and southern Michigan. 
At the end of this time he was physically so greatly improved that 
in October, 1867, he returned to the Museum of Comparative 
Zoology to act as Curator of birds and mammals in that institu- 

After a year in the study, the winter of 1868-69 was devoted to 
zoological exploration on the headwaters of the St. John's river, 

8 Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. [j^. 

then a primeval part of Florida. This expedition supplied in part 
the material on which was based Dr. Allen's classic memoir 'On 
the Mammals and Winter Birds of East Florida, with an examina- 
tion of certain assumed specific Characters in Birds and a Sketch 
of the Bird-Faunae of Eastern North America.' This paper, 
published as a Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 
in 1871, at once placed Dr. Allen in the first rank of philosophic 

The results of the Florida expedition having been reported upon, 
Dr. Allen started, in April, 1871, on a nine months' collecting trip 
to the great Plains and Rocky Mountains in the interests of the 
Cambridge Museum. General collections were made at intervals 
from the Missouri River to the Great Salt Lake, the selection of 
locality being largely dependent upon the movements of hostile 
Indians. At Fort Hays, Kansas, the arrival of a military escort 
being delayed, Dr. Allen and his two assistants went buffalo 
hunting, accompanied by only a single hunter, securing and pre- 
paring in eight days, of which thirty-six hours were occupied in 
traveling, fourteen complete skeletons and several additional 
skulls representing both sexes and various ages, from yearlings to 
old bulls and cows, also the skins as well as skeletons of five young 
calves. This collection was supplemented the following January 
by the skins of eight buffalo in winter pelage. 

July and part of August were passed in Colorado, where Leuco- 
sticte australis was discovered on the summit of Mount Lincoln, 
and after ten days at Cheyenne, Dr. Allen went to Oregon, Utah, 
which became his base for the ensuing seven weeks. In October 
he worked at Green River and Fort Fred Steele, and from October 
20 to December 18 at Percy. Here he secured the assistance of 
two native hunters and the collections, chiefly of big game, shipped 
from this point nearly filled a freight car. December 19 he 
started eastward and after a short stop in Kansas to secure buffalo 
he reached Cambridge on January 22, 1872. The collection made 
on this expedition included 200 skins, 60 skeletons and 240 add- 
itional skulls of mammals (mostly large species); 1500 birds' skins, 
over 100 birds in alcohol, a large number of birds' nests and 
eggs,recent and fossil fishes, mollusks, insects and crustaceans. 

The following year Dr. Allen, representing both the Cambridge 

Vo1 ' ^22 XIX ] Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. 9 

Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, again went to our west- 
ern frontier on this occasion as chief of the scientific staff attached 
to the survey of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Railhead on this 
road was then at Fargo, North Dakota, beyond which construction 
trains ran as far as Bismarck. 

The work of the expedition lay in the country between Bismarck 
and a point on the Mussellshell River about fifty miles northwest 
of Pompey's Pillar on the Yellowstone, a distance of about 550 
miles. The journey occupied some three months from June 20. 

The region was infested by actively hostile Indians who had 
so interfered with the survey for the railroad route that an escort 
of 1400 troops under General Custer accompanied the expedition. 
It was only three years later that this officer and his entire command 
were killed some sixty miles south of the most western point 
reached by Dr. Allen. 

After passing the mouth of the Powder River, the expedition 
was in daily contact with Indians, and twice was attacked in 
force. Orders were given forbidding the naturalists to use firearms 
or to leave the line of march, and Dr. Allen writes, " The opportuni- 
ties for natural history collecting and field research on this 
expedition were far from ideal/' but some specimens and much 
valuable data were secured which later formed the basis of a 
report of some sixty pages. With the exception of a visit to 
Colorado with William Brewster, in 1882, made chiefly to regain 
his greatly impaired health, Dr. Allen did not again enter the 
field. His collecting days, therefore, were ended before those 
of most of his colleagues were well under way, and few who knew 
him only in the study realized the extent of his travels, the dangers 
on sea and land to which he had been exposed, and the amount of 
material he had secured. The present day naturalist, who travels 
in palatial steamers or follows well-worn trails, has but faint 
conception of the discomforts of a 90-day voyage in a small sailing 
vessel, and has perhaps never experienced the risk of being himself 

From 1876 to 1882 Dr. Allen gave his time wholly to research, 
producing his monographs on the 'American Bison Living and 
Extinct' and 'North American Pinnipeds/ the latter a volume of 
800 pages. The intensity with which he applied himself to these 

10 Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. [jml 

and other tasks during this period overtaxed his always limited 
reserve powers and for long periods he was able to do little or no 

When the trustees of the American Museum, under the presi- 
dency of Morris K. Jesup, decided to make research as well as 
exhibition the function of that institution, their choice naturally 
fell upon Dr. Allen as the head of the department of birds and 
mammals, a post which Dr. Allen entered on May 1, 1885. 

This was the beginning of a new period in his life as well as that 
of the museum. Although the museum's exhibition halls had a 
fair representation of the leading types of birds and mammals, 
there was no study collection of the latter, and only about 3000 
study specimens of the former. The 50,000 skins and skulls of 
mammals at present in the museum were all, therefore, acquired 
during the period of Dr. Allen's curatorship, and, to him in large 
measure is due the size and importance of the study collection of 
birds. Two years after Dr. Allen came to the museum the Law- 
rence Collection of 12,000 specimens was purchased and this was 
followed by the Herbert Smith Collection of 4000, birds from 
southwestern Brazil, the Scott Collection from Arizona, and the 
collections of Arizona birds presented by Dr. E. A. Mearns, and 
of Hummingbirds by D. G. Elliot. At this time also the invaluable 
ornithological library of Dr. Elliot was acquired. The first three 
years of his connection with the museum, Dr. Allen worked alone, 
but on March 1, 1888, the writer was appointed his assistant and 
today the combined staffs of the now separate departments of 
birds and mammals number seventeen. 

Relieved now of the actual care of the growing collections, 
Dr. Allen devoted himself to their study, and the publications of 
the Museum during the succeeding third of a century bear testi- 
mony to his industry and productiveness. During this period he 
published 37 papers on birds and 150 on mammals, based wholly 
or largely on museum material. To his duties as Curator were 
soon added those of Editor, a post which his natural qualifications 
and experience especially fitted him to occupy. For thirty-two 
years all the zoological publications of the Museum, including 
37 volumes of the Bulletin and 22 of the Memiors, passed through 
his hands and a regrettably large part of his time was consumed 
by the preparation of copy for the press and the reading of proof. 

Yo1 ' i$22^ IX ] Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. H 

Dr. Allen was eagerly welcomed to New York by the resident 
naturalists of the city, and he was at once placed on the Council 
of the Academy of Sciences, and later was made President of the 
Linnaean Society, but he soon found that the duties of each day 
demanded all his strength and he was able to take only a small 
part in the scientific activities of the city. He, however, was one 
of the organizers of the original Audubon Society and to the end 
was an active director of this society and its virtual successor in 
New York, the National Association of Audubon Societies. But 
by far the greater part of the time Dr. Allen could spare from his 
curatorial labors was given to the American Ornithologists' Union 
in the welfare of which he was as much concerned as a father in 
the well-being of his first-born. Indeed to Dr. Allen might well 
be applied the title Father of the American Ornithologists ' Union. 
He played a leading part in its organization, served as its President 
during the first seven years of its existence, and was a member of 
its Council until the day of his death. He edited three volumes 
of the Union's 'Check-List' of North American Birds, and for 28 
years was editor of its official organ .'The Auk', during which 
period he contributed 643 papers, reviews and obituary notices 
to that publication. 

Only one in daily contact with Dr. Allen can realize the extent 
of the demands upon his time and strength made by his duties for 
the Union, and the loving attention he gave to its affairs. It 
occupied a place in his affections second only to that held by mem- 
bers of his family and he never spared himself in advancing its aims. 

Dr. Allen was chiefly responsible for the formulation of the 
Union's 'Code of Nomenclature,' a subject in which he took a deep 
interest and on which he was an authority. For years he served as 
Chairman of the Union's Committee on Classification and Nomen- 
clature, and for the last ten years of his life he was a member of 
the Commission on Zoological Nomenclature of the International 
Congress of Zoology. 

In 1879, after five years of wedded life, Dr. Allen's first wife, 
Mary Manning Cleveland, of Cambridge, died leaving him his 
only child, Cleveland Allen, now in business in New York City. 

Seven years later, and a year after coming to the American 
Museum, Dr. Allen married Susan Augusta Taft, of Cornwall-on- 

12 Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. [jan" 

Hudson, who survives him. "I owe to her deep love and sym- 
pathy/' Dr. Allen writes, "to her supreme optimism and constant 
watchfulness over my health, and to her inspiration, the greater 
part of the little I may have achieved in these last thirty years 
and doubtless many years of activity beyond those I otherwise 
would have attained." 

Dr. Allen's distinguishing characteristics as a man were, modesty, 
sincerity, unselfishness, gentleness, consideration for others, a 
purity of mind and purpose which made it difficult for him to 
believe that anyone was not actuated by the same direct, guileless 
motives which ever animated him. I do not recall ever hearing 
him speak ill of another, but he was unsparing in his condemnation 
of careless work, and particularly of generalizations based on 
insufficient data. But so impersonal was his attitude, so impossi- 
ble was it for him to cherish resentment, that while for an author 
he would show only helpful consideration, for his work, honesty 
would compel him to be merciless. I have seen him treat with 
fatherly kindness a man whose theories he had subjected to 
fatally destructive criticism. 

As a student Dr. Allen was inspired by love of truth for truth's 
sake and by an intense absorbing interest in his work. His 
powers of application and concentration were phenomenal; his 
enthusiasm for research so unlimited that he constantly overtaxed 
his physical resources and the end of the day often found him on 
the verge of complete exhaustion. But so vitalizing was his love 
for his profession that, in spite of a frail physique, and the fact 
that he never rested from his labors when it was a possible thing 
to pursue them, he was actively engaged in research to within 
a few weeks of his death. 

But he was never too absorbed in his work to be interested in 
that of others; an appeal to him for advice or assistance received 
his whole-hearted attention and he made your problem his. The 
writer owes him a debt which accumulated during thirty-four 
years of almost daily association. Coming to the museum in 
March, 1888, as an inexperienced assistant, he found in Dr. Allen 
not only a friend but a teacher to whom he might turn for instruc- 
tion in even the most trivial matters with the assurance that he 
would meet with a sympathetic response. Dr. Allen's counsel was 

Vo1 f922 XIX ] Chapman, In Memoriam: Joel Asaph Allen. 13 

always based on a logical consideration of the facts at issue; for 
as far as was humanly possible, he eliminated the personal equation 
in reaching conclusions. 

The inestimable privilege of securing Dr. Allen's advice was 
sought, therefore, not only by members of his staff, but by workers 
in other departments of the museum and in other institutions. 
On one occasion Prof. W. B. Scott, the eminent palaeontologist, 
came to him for an opinion on the skull of a recent fossil rodent. 
Dr. Allen, who remembered characteristics of quadrupeds far 
better than he did those of biped mammals, mistook Scott for 
Theodore Roosevelt, and only after expressing to me his surprise 
at his caller's profound knowledge of his subject did he discover 
that he had made an error in identification. 

In spite of the physical limitations from which he suffered, and 
by which he was handicapped, it is impossible to consider Dr. Allen's 
career without feeling that few men have more nearly and more 
happily approached the full measure of their potential achieve- 

The guiding star which rose on his youthful horizon shone 
brightly almost to the day of his death, and he followed it with 
ever increasing joy and confidence. Only a few weeks before his 
last illness, as he was exulting over the possibilities of the early 
receipt of large collections from the field, he said "I am just as 
enthusiastic as ever." 

To the boy under the spell of the romance of a naturalist's life 
I commend these lines written by Dr. Allen as he approached his 
eightieth year: "All I aspired to was opportunity for scientific 
research, believing that diligence, singleness of purpose, and honest 
work would bring its own reward. I was content to follow my 
own lines of dominating interest to such limit as the circumstances 
of earning a living would permit. I have never had any desire for 
money as such, nor any interest whatever in financial projects, 
nor any longing for honors beyond those my colleagues in science 
saw fit to impose." 

And with the passing years these honors came to him from 
every quarter of the globe. Harvard gave him the Humboldt 
scholarship, the University of Indiana the degree of Doctor of 
Philosophy, the Boston Society of Natural History, the Walker 

14 Michael, Harlequin Ducks in Yosemite. [jbxl 

Grand Prize, the Linnaean Society of New York its medal. He 
was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 
1876, an Honorary Member of the New York Zoological Society 
in 1887, an Honorary Fellow of the Zoological Society of London 
in 1901, and an Honorary Member of the British Ornithologists' 
Union in 1907, to mention only a few of the institutions on whose 
rolls his name appeared. And so far was he from realizing his 
own worth, that always, he writes, such recognition came to him 
as a "surprise." 

And so in the fulness of his years and powers, honored by his 
colleagues, beloved by his associates, Dr. Allen's life came to its 
end. For more than three score years and ten he had dedicated 
himself to the study of nature and he has left to the world the 
fruits of his labors, a marvellous record of achievement, and an 
inspiring example of pure, unselfish devotion to the cause of 



Plates 77-777. 

In the Yosemite Valley, during the early spring of 1921, we had 
the pleasure of intimate and friendly association with the rare and 
little known Harlequin Duck. Although these birds have long 
been suspected of nesting in the mountains of California, eggs 
have never been taken within the confines of the State. Therefore, 
it was with eagerness that we searched for their nest. The search 
proved unsuccessful. However, we did get a great deal of pleasure 
in studying the habits of the birds. 

The Harlequins were first noted April 6. From this date until 
May 10 they were daily visitors at our camp on the edge of the 
Merced River, where a floating lunch counter was maintained for 
their especial benefit. The following paragraphs, taken from 
notes written at the time of observation, may bring out some new 
points regarding the habits of these birds.